High ceilings? Tips for cleaning, painting and changing light bulbs (© SuperStock)

Q: A couple of years ago, we moved into a house with high ceilings, including light fixtures and decorative beams that are all but impossible to reach. It never occurred to us how difficult it is to deal with dusting, light-bulb changing and painting with all this tall architecture. What’s the best way to handle this?

A: Believe me, you’re not alone. These atriums and great rooms are designed to wow homebuyers, but homeowners are often less thrilled when they realize that routine maintenance and painting in these areas can require scaffolding.

First, let’s look at the cleaning, since that’s the easiest to handle. Get a telescoping cleaning pole that has an Acme thread on its end. Typical homeowner models range from 5 to 15 feet, approximately, but professional models can reach as high as 30 feet.

Also, get a lamb’s wool or synthetic duster and a wall brush to sweep cobwebs out of tall corners. If you have ceiling fans, get a forked dusting tool. These things will clean both sides of a ceiling-fan blade in one pass.

Next, light-bulb changing.

Home centers and hardware stores sell pole-mounted bulb changers equipped with a suction cup or spring-steel fingers, but these devices don’t work with chandeliers, which will spin as you fasten the changer to the bulb and turn it.

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The only way to prevent this from happening is to get a second person with another pole to try to hold the chandelier in position while you spin the bulb loose. Failing that, you’ll need either a tall stepladder or a hybrid stepladder that’s designed to articulate over a staircase and into corners that are hard to reach by conventional means. Little Giant makes a number of ladders that can be configured in this way.

That leaves painting. Sorry, there’s no good news here, just hard work. Dust off the high areas before beginning, because you’re liable to knock dust loose as you work. The best way to paint tall ceilings and walls without setting up scaffolding is to get some help and set up an extension ladder. Use the ladder to get up to the ceiling/wall corner and cut in the line where the two meet using a brush and a rapid little tool appropriately called a mini roller.

Next, paint the ceiling with a long extension pole and a roller (I admit, the job can give you a workout). Finally, paint the walls using the extension ladder to reach the ceiling/wall corner and the extension pole for the high parts of the wall.